Paternity analysis of pollen-mediated gene flow for Fraxinus excelsior L. in a chronically fragmented landscape
Paternity analysis based on microsatellite marker genotyping was used to infer contemporary genetic connectivity by pollen of three population remnants of the wind-pollinated, wind-dispersed tree Fraxinus excelsior, in a deforested Scottish landscape. By deterministically accounting for genotyping error and comparing a range of assignment methods, individual-based paternity assignments were used to derive population-level estimates of gene flow. Pollen immigration into a 300 ha landscape represents between 43 and 68% of effective pollination, mostly depending on assignment method. Individual male reproductive success is unequal, with 31 of 48 trees fertilizing one seed or more, but only three trees fertilizing more than ten seeds. Spatial analysis suggests a fat-tailed pollen dispersal curve with 85% of detected pollination occurring within 100 m, and 15% spreading between 300 and 1900 m from the source. Identification of immigrating pollen sourced from two neighbouring remnants indicates further effective dispersal at 2900 m. Pollen exchange among remnants is driven by population size rather than geographic distance, with larger remnants acting predominantly as pollen donors, and smaller remnants as pollen recipients. Enhanced wind dispersal of pollen in a barren landscape ensures that the seed produced within the catchment includes genetic material from a wide geographic area. However, gene flow estimates based on analysis of non-dispersed seeds were shown to underestimate realized gene immigration into the remnants by a factor of two suggesting that predictive landscape conservation requires integrated estimates of post-recruitment gene flow occurring via both pollen and seed.